This one fitted the idea for Oxy really well; a world too polluted to live out in the open, unless you had filters which you kept refreshed with precious oxygen. The rain was acid and only mutants could survive in it for long.
This one flowed easily.
England slept under a blanket of rain. The heavy clouds deposited their load on all and sundry, dispassionately soaking podcars, trees, domes and Mrs Wilkins.
She sat huddled in the shadow of West Dome Seven, her breath clouding the air. She watched as the rain sluiced down from the Dome’s fractured husk, pouring into rivulets and draining onto the ground. The acid rain had little effect on anything it dropped on, but that didn’t stop the elderly woman from hugging her heavy coat further around her. One gnarled hand flashed out and adjusted the peak of her wide-brimmed hat, then vanished back into the warmth.
It was nights like these she missed Monet. Her little mongrel had always been so good, huddling next to her, and people had thought twice about preying on her when he was by her side, but she hadn’t been able to afford his oxy and she’d had to sell him to a trader as meat.
Just thinking about it brought her hand compulsively up so she could check her oxymonitor. The little device, no bigger than a peanut, was flashing orange. It wouldn’t be long before it dimmed to red, and she began to choke, but it didn’t matter. This was her night.
When Robin had died, it had only been a matter of time before her pension hadn’t been enough on its own. The furniture had been sold, piece by piece, her jewellery; finally, the house itself. She had left Dome Nine, too many bad memories, and besides there were jobs going in Dome Eight.
She smiled grimly. Of course there hadn’t been any jobs in Eight, or how could she have ended up out here? A clang disturbed the steady susurration of the rain; one of the girders inside Seven, or something, finally rusted through. Mrs Wilkins shivered and curled up tighter.
Surviving outside the Domes was something no normal human could do. That her oxy had lasted this long was a miracle. Finally she had found a place to settle and waited for the inevitable. It wouldn’t be long, and Robin was waiting for her with Monet.
A crunch, foot on gravel, sent a little thrill of fear through her aged body. Someone was nearby. The old woman schooled herself to stillness, but the footsteps began to walk resolutely towards her.
Reluctantly she raised her head. There was, indeed, a shape moving towards her, a man or woman in a greatcoat and hat not unlike her own. Whoever they were, they held a lantern at their side, keeping their face in shadow. Mrs Wilkins pursed her lips.
“Are you in need of assistance?” A man’s voice. His voice was gruff, and she began to pick out the lines of a beard on his face as her eyes adjusted to the light.
“Who are you?” she said faintly.
“Oswald Tamely. Do you need help?” he replied.
Her eyes narrowed. “How did you find me?”
He waved vaguely. “Heat monitor. I live just round the curve of the Dome. You’re welcome to come with me, share my warmth and food.” He held out his hand.
Suspicion clouded Mrs Wilkins’ mind. “Show me your face.”
Richard sighed and moved the lantern closer to his head. Her eyes widened; his nostrils were bared, uncovered. He wore no filters, which could only mean...
“I would never accept your help, mutant!” she said. “Your kind are the reason we’re like this. Leave me be.”
He scowled. “You would turn down food, warmth, life, because I’m Altered? You want to die out here?”
“May be I do,” she said, and curled her knees back up again. She heard him sigh, but the light didn’t go anywhere. She closed her eyes and waited for him to leave. She was almost disappointed when his footsteps scrunched away, but then she remembered that he wasn’t really human, didn’t feel emotion like she did. A soft pinging noise, audible only to her, told her that the oxymonitor had turned red. The rain continued to fall, lending the air a clarity that almost convinced her that she would not soon be dragging each breath from clouds of smog.
The pinging slowed, quietened, stopped.